Suffolk

Suffolk Police 'should have taken suspect Lee Sparks to hospital'

Tesco Extra Newmarket Image copyright Google
Image caption Lee Sparks was detained by shoppers and staff at the Tesco store in Newmarket

Police should have taken a suspect straight to hospital after concerns he had swallowed drugs, a police watchdog has said.

Lee Sparks died on 24 December 2015 hours after being arrested for suspected shoplifting at Tesco in Newmarket.

Mr Sparks started making "regurgitating noises" but officers said he was not in distress and took him into custody.

Suffolk Police said they would look to learn from the case.

Officers had become concerned the 29-year-old had something in his mouth but Mr Sparks denied it.

Police guidelines say suspects should be taken to hospital but the officers chose not to because Mr Sparks was showing no signs of distress, according to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC).

He later admitted he had swallowed cocaine while at Bury St Edmunds police investigation centre and was taken to West Suffolk Hospital where he died at 23:00 GMT.

Following an inquest into Mr Sparks's death, a jury concluded there had been an "inadequate" search by police.

An IOPC report said: "Our investigation concluded that the arresting and transporting officers, having concerns that the man may have swallowed something, should have taken him to hospital, in accordance with College of Policing Authorised Professional Practice (APP), rather than to the custody suite.

"While we did not identify any criminal or conduct matters for the officers concerned, we recommended that Suffolk Constabulary reiterate the guidance contained within the APP about the need for officers to take detainees who are believed or suspected to have swallowed drugs to hospital."

A Suffolk Constabulary spokesman said: "Where we could have done things better, we will look to learn from those cases and, where appropriate, make suitable changes."

The force also said it continuously reviewed its procedures to ensure they were compliant with national protocols.

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